Senators Pimps demand Feds halt inquiries into oil companies’ climate denial

Five hardline conservative senators, including former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, have demanded the US justice department stop all investigations into whether oil and gas companies lied to the public and shareholders about climate change…

The letter intends to forestall a federal investigation like those begun by states around the US. In New York last year, the state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, began an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied to its investors about the dangers of climate change, and subpoenaed the oil giant for records.

Also on Wednesday, Exxon’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, defied shareholders and activists who have called on the company to acknowledge climate change and change its behaviors. He said. blah, blah blah, blah, blah.

Some investors have tried to force change within the company, and the Rockefeller family, descended from Standard Oil tycoon John D Rockefeller, divested fully from Exxon earlier this year…

Parallel investigations have either been announced or reported in more than a dozen other states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia. The senators’ letter took note of these investigations, and called them…an assault on free speech…

Not that these lying bastards have ever worried much about free speech for ordinary citizens…Instead of the privileged corporations they represent full-time.

The oil and gas industry gave more to the Texas senator’s campaign than to any other candidate’s in the Republican primary election.

Here’s what corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill

A decade in the making, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its climax and as Congress hotly debates the biggest trade deal in a generation, its backers have turned on the cash spigot in the hopes of getting it passed…

That vote, to give Barack Obama the authority to speed the bill through Congress, comes as the president’s own supporters, senior economists and a host of activists have lobbied against a pact they argue will favor big business but harm US jobs, fail to secure better conditions for workers overseas and undermine free speech online…

Fast-tracking the TPP, meaning its passage through Congress without having its contents available for debate or amendments, was only possible after lots of corporate money exchanged hands with senators. The US Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – the fast-tracking bill – by a 65-33 margin on 14 May. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 62-38 to bring the debate on TPA to a close.

Those impressive majorities follow months of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by the world’s most well-heeled multinational corporations with just a handful of holdouts…

Out of the total $1,148,971 given, an average of $17,676.48 was donated to each of the 65 “yea” votes.

The average Republican member received $19,673.28 from corporate TPP supporters.

The average Democrat received $9,689.23 from those same donors.

The amounts given rise dramatically when looking at how much each senator running for re-election received.

Two days before the fast-track vote, Obama was a few votes shy of having the filibuster-proof majority he needed. Ron Wyden and seven other Senate Democrats announced they were on the fence on 12 May, distinguishing themselves from the Senate’s 54 Republicans and handful of Democrats as the votes to sway.

In just 24 hours, Wyden and five of those Democratic holdouts – Michael Bennet of Colorado, Dianne Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, and Bill Nelson of Florida – caved and voted for fast-track.

Bennet, Murray, and Wyden – all running for re-election in 2016 – received $105,900 between the three of them. Bennet, who comes from the more purple state of Colorado, got $53,700 in corporate campaign donations between January and March 2015, according to Taylor Channing’s research.

RTFA if you need the details on Republican payoffs. Since only 2 Republican votes were in doubt you can be certain that everyone up to and including former presidential candidate, John McCain, received an appropriate chunk of silver dollars.

Smart small business owners support raising minimum wage

Sen. Robert Casey, CEO Clifton Broumand and Sen. Cory Booker

Small business leaders joined Senate Democrats on the Hill Thursday to lend their support to a push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

Flanked by business owners who said they experienced measurable benefits to paying their employees above the minimum wage, Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the impact of such a move would go far beyond the individual worker.

“We know that 70 percent of the economy is driven by consumer spending,” Casey said. “If you put more dollars in the pockets of consumers, not only do you have that overarching economic benefit to the country, but of course small businesses especially benefit.”

But the more powerful testimony came from John Cooper, Clifton Broumand and Scott Nash, who told stories of their employees who “were more like family” and stayed with their companies for decades because they could count on a “a fair wage for a fair day’s work.”

Broumand, who owns Man & Machine Inc., which makes medical-grade waterproof keyboards and mice, said that paying his employees well meant they were more innovative and loyal.

“Inevitably as a business owner, you’re not going to get as much money initially, but I’ve found that productivity by people who have less stress, who are happier in their jobs, actually increases substantially every time they’re getting more money,” he explained. “And therefore, it doesn’t take that long for me to actually become more productive and actually make more money…”

Cooper, president of Spectronics Corporation, a Westbury, N.Y. company that builds ultraviolet lamps for forensic and fingerprint analysis, said more than 70 percent of his company’s employees had been there for more than 10 years.

A higher minimum wage will result in increased employee retention, which means lower costs for hiring and training new workers,” he said. “It will allow workers to buy essentials they cannot afford now and most of the money they spend will go right back into local businesses.”

“Raising the minimum wage might have a short impact on our profits, the bottom line, but in the long run, it benefits our workers, and it benefits me as owner of the company as well,” he said. “So it’s a win, win.”

One of the most interesting experiments by any nation as we we headed into the global crash of the Great Recession was that portion of German industry that tried an alternative to the dole. Work hours were cut; but, workers were not cut loose from their jobs into unemployment. They may not have had a boatload of work to do; but, factories were maintained; tasking skills were continued as was training; plans were studied and trialed – and when the turnaround barely began to be felt, German industrial capacity was ready to move and grow, produce and benefit the whole country’s economy.

All at a cost less than traditional measures. All without displacing workers from their place of employment often for decades. All without hiring new workers requiring one to three years of experience to get up to the productivity levels of staff let go to the dole. A stroke of success beyond the comprehension of the American government, particularly Congress. Unfortunately.

On a smaller scale, these small business owners are talking about the same concept and practices.

Revolving Door: how former members of Congress now collect their payoffs

Dick Armey. Tom Daschle. Tom Foley. Trent Lott. Once, these politicos ranked among Congress’ most powerful members. Today, they share another distinction: They’re lobbyists (or “senior advisors” performing very similar work). And they’re hardly alone. Dozens of former members of Congress now receive handsome compensation from corporations and special interests as they attempt to influence the very federal government in which they used to serve.

Take a look over at this database and reflect on how many former members of the House or Senate now are lobbyists. This has become the standard career path for mostly useless politicians.

A bonus for foreign purchasers of expensive homes – a US visa!

C’mon out to Santa Fe – lots of posh houses still unsold

American consumers and the federal government haven’t been able to bail out the sinking U.S. real estate market. Now wealthy Chinese, Canadians and other foreign buyers could get their chance.

Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would allow foreigners who spend at least $500,000 on residential property to obtain visas allowing them to live in the United States. The plan could be a boon to California, which has become a popular real estate market for foreigners, particularly those from China.

Nationwide, residential sales to foreigners and recent immigrants totaled $82 billion in the 12-month period ended March 31, up from $66 billion the previous year…California accounted for 12% of those sales, second only to Florida…

The program would come with several restrictions.

The purchase would have to be in cash, with no mortgage or home equity loan allowed. And the property would have to be bought for more than its most recent appraised value, Senator Schumer said.

The buyer would have to live in the home for at least 180 days each year, which would require paying U.S. income taxes on any foreign earnings. Buyers would no longer be eligible for the temporary visa if the property were sold…

The Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act, or VISIT-USA Act, aims to do that by also making several other changes to visa policies.

Among them are allowing Chinese tourists to receive a five-year visa that permits multiple visits. They now must apply for a new visa every year. Canadians would be allowed to stay in the U.S. for more than 180 days without having to obtain a visa…

Senator Lee described it as a free-market way to boost demand in the real estate market after “big-government programs have failed to work.”

I’m not certain if Senator Lee speaks English as his first language back in Utah. Describing this program – the federal government clearing the way for foreign investment in American real estate – as a free market solution is laughable. But, then, as a Congressional Republican he’s probably used to Orwellian re-definition of words as a matter of practice.

Capitol Police probing phony death notices

Senator Leahy with soon-to-be Justice Kagan
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

At least three Democratic senators have been subjects of false reports of their deaths in the past two days, prompting the U.S. Capitol Police to open an investigation into the matter.

Several news outlets received a hoax e-mail news release, announcing the death of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday. Leahy, 70, who participated in July 4 events, is alive and well, according to spokesman David Carle.

“It was spoofed to look as if it had come from the office,” Carle said.

A copy of the e-mail, posted on the Web site of Washington’s WTOP radio, said Leahy had died of liver cancer.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), an 86-year-old appropriator who recently announced he is free from a form of stomach cancer, was also spoofed, his office confirmed.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who serves on the Judiciary and Appropriations committees with Leahy, was subjected to a hoax of the same kind on Monday, her office confirmed. Similarly, she was said to have died of cancer at her home…

U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider told POLITICO that the police are looking into the hoaxes but declined to say how many there were or to provide any other details.

Sounds like wishful thinking from the sort of ignoranuses who populate the Tea Party. Or some high school Young Republican.